OCT/NOV 21 Michigan Retailer

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OCT/NOV 2021

Refine your customer experience Mystery shoppers uncover new shopping trends Bivouac celebrates 50 years Gemmen’s coolest hardware store And much more!

Volume 46 No. 5

The official publication of the Michigan Retailers Association

Board of Directors BO BRINES

Chair Little Forks Outfitters, Midland


President and CEO Michigan Retailers Association


Michigan Retailers Services, Inc. Board of Directors WILLIAM J. HALLAN

President and CEO


Allendale True Value, Allendale


Vice Chair Golden Shoes, Traverse City

Kroger Co. of Michigan, Novi


Leppink’s Food Centers, Belding

Treasurer Mondial Properties, Birmingham


Past Chair Becky Beauchine Kulka Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, Okemos


Meijer, Inc., Grand Rapids


Marshall Music Company, Lansing


Orin Jewelers, Northville


Credit Card Group


Neiman’s Family Market, St. Clair


Great Northern Trading Co., Rockford


TDU Consulting, LLC, Ann Arbor


Board Member Emeritus

Advertise With every issue, we reach retail owners, managers and executives who make spending decisions for 15,000 stores and websites across the state. To request a media kit, email Rachel Schrauben at rschrauben@retailers.com.




Target, Retired

Michigan Retailer WILLIAM J. HALLAN





Design and Printing Manager


Copy Editor and Content Manager





Publication Office 603 South Washington Avenue Lansing, MI 48933 517.372.5656 or 800.366.3699 Fax: 517.372.1303

About Us

Michigan Retailer (USPS 345-780, ISSN 0889-0439) is published in February, April, June, August, October and December by Michigan Retailers Association, 603 South Washington Ave., Lansing, MI 48933. Periodical postage paid at Lansing, Michigan. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to 603 South Washington Ave., Lansing, MI 48933. The Michigan Retailer may be recycled with white office paper.



10 “Your most unhapp customers are youry greatest source of learning.” Bill Gates

Retailers.com RetailersInsurance.com BuyNearbyMI.com Visit us online to see what’s new in the industry and what services we provide members to strengthen your business.



6 BUY NEARBY – NEW STATS New infographic shows retail’s impact on Michigan.

4 FROM THE CEO Bill Hallan’s perspective on duty to the customer.


GEMMEN’S: ACE’S COOLEST HARDWARE STORE By: Shandra Martinez See what it takes to be cool.

5 NOTES FROM THE EDITOR So, er - what’s your customer’s experience?


BIVOUAC CELEBRATES 50 YEARS By: Shandra Martinez Retailer Ed Davidson on serving generations of customers.


ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS HAPPY? By: Jennifer Rook Shopping expert Lindsey Dahl uncovers new trends.


ERASING THE TARGET ON YOUR BACK By: Brett Gerrish Why you should implement MFA right now.


WALKING THE PATH THROUGH YOUR CLAIMS By: Brett Gerrish Steps to ensure a smooth process.

7 GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS NEWS Amy Drumm recaps recent legislation impacts to Michigan business. 8 LEGALLY SPEAKING Tom Clement covers doing more with less. 16 IN THEIR OWN WORDS The Cheese Lady’s Heather Zinn on creating the perfect pairing. 21 CATCH-ALL DRAWER News you can use.



FROM THE CEO Duty to the customer A classic bar exam question focuses on the fiduciary duties an officer owes to a corporation. Specifically, an officer owes the corporation both the duty of care and the duty of loyalty. The duty of care requires the officer to exercise the care of an ordinarily prudent and diligent person in a like position under similar circumstances. Basically, an officer must act in good faith and use a reasonable amount of care in their business decisions. The duty of loyalty requires an officer to act without personal economic conflict. In other words, it precludes an officer from self-dealing or taking advantage of a corporate opportunity for personal gain.

if there was a fiduciary relationship – putting the interests of the customer ahead of their own. Restricting capacity and spending money on PPE isn’t how retailers typically enhance revenue, but it shows a commitment to customer safety!

“Many retailers used the pandemic as an opportunity to show their customers how much they care.” My former law school professors would probably admonish me for over generalizing these important concepts, but this article isn’t about fiduciary duties (not really at least). I’d venture to guess that most business owners aren’t thinking about fiduciary duties on a regular basis. Especially in the case of a sole proprietorship, the owner does not need to distinguish between his or her own interest and interests of the business. Rather than concentrating on fiduciary duties, most retailers and business owners are likely focused on the duty to the customer. Legally, the duty owed to the customer relates to safety. It’s a duty to prevent foreseeable harm. For example, if a business owner knows of an unsafe condition at their establishment, such as a hole in the floor, the business has a duty to keep the customer safe. Failure to do so could result in liability for negligence. Keeping customers safe has taken on new meaning during the past 18 months. I don’t need to rehash how retailers limited capacity and implemented enhanced cleaning procedures, but as the world changed, so too did customer service. Many retailers used the pandemic as an opportunity to show their customers how much they care. And whether required by government mandate or not, retailers interacted with their customers as 4


We do our best at Michigan Retailers Association to incorporate that philosophy into our everyday actions as we assist our members, merchants, and policyholders. If you’re on our credit card processing program, you’ve probably spoken with our customer service team: Penny, Tamara, Mari, and Kate. If you’re a workers’ compensation policyholder, you may have spoken with Laura, Jamie or Justine. If you’ve ever had a membership question, you probably talked with Francine. Fun fact, Francine is the longest-serving MRA employee, she’s been with the Association since 1981! Retailers don’t need to put a label on how they serve their customers. It doesn’t matter whether there is a duty of care, duty of loyalty, or any other legal term. Retailers know that by putting the customer first, they’ve set themselves up for success. We try to do the same. There are 34 of us here at MRA, and we are here to serve you.

WILLIAM J. HALLAN MRA President and Chief Executive Officer


So, er - what’s your customer’s experience? Hope you don’t mind my little play on a Jimi Hendrix’s lyric. I’m a big fan. We’ll save music talk for another day.

now has seven locations around Michigan: Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Traverse City, Farmington, Rochester and Fenton.

Right now, I suspect you have other things on your mind.

Gemmen’s was named Ace Hardware’s “Coolest Hardware Store” out of more than 5,400 locations around the globe. See page 10 to read how owners Andrew and Jennifer achieved such a distinction. Celebrating 50 years now in Ann Arbor Bivouac owner Ed Davison recalls the early days of creating what is now revered as a local institution. Lastly, we visit Heather Zinn in this month’s In Her Own Words on page 16 to learn how Zinn was able to take her passion for local cheese and build it into a multi-location tasting experience.

Variants. Supply chains. Hiring. Year-end numbers. Keeping your staff happy. The encroaching holiday season. And customers. JENNIFER ROOK MRA Vice President, Communications and Marketing Contact Jennifer at jrook@retailers.com

“Always keep in mind the old retail adage: Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.” Lauren Freedman

The good news is things are definitely different than this time last October. But business owners across all sectors are doing more with less (see Tom Clement’s Legally Speaking column on page 8 for more on this subject). For those of you who look to the last quarter as an opportunity to end the calendar year in the black, the question becomes – what are you doing to ensure a good experience for your customers? In store. Online. In office. Over the phone. All these interactions count. I’m not saying anything here that you don’t already know. As a marketer, I devote a lot of time to understanding the customer experience from a first interaction, to what leads to a purchase, and how we keep customers coming back once that happens. Lately, us marketers been calling the customer experience “CX” and obsessing over a processing that maps out the “customer journey” noting ways a business can interact with customers that are both meaningful and memorable. Many of you probably work within the same framework if you use an online marketing tool. Regardless what we call customer interactions these days, it all comes down to two things: Are they happy and will they tell a friend? Because we are heading into that time of the year where customer service and experience reign supreme, we dedicate this issue to ways that enhance your customers’ experience. In our feature story, Are Your Customers Happy page 14, I interview a mystery shopping expert Lindsay Dahl of Shopper’s View who shares what caught the eye of mystery shoppers over the past18 months into a pandemic.

In our service sections, we cover why multi factor authentication (MFA) can help guard your business against a cyber-attack, page 18 and ways to enhance your workers’ comp. claim filing process that saves time and headaches. Lastly, as we go to press with this month’s issue, we will be celebrating Buy Nearby Weekend (October 1-3) all over Michigan in the hopes it drives more business and more attention for the importance that retailers pay in Michigan’s economy. Check out our infographic on page 6 that illustrates this point. Whether “the customer experience” to you means a happy patient, a referral, or a positive online review, all of us here at MRA practice our version of CX by finding ways that help your business run as smooth as possible. Happy October!

If you have story ideas or news about your business, send me a note at: jrook@retailers.com. We’d love to share it!

We also highlighted three business owners who all approach the customer experience a little differently, Gemmen’s Home & Hardware in Hudsonville, Bivouac in Ann Arbor, and The Cheese Lady that WWW.RETAILERS.COM OCT / NOV 2021


















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Tools and transparency needed to stop organized retail crime A recent Wall Street Journal article (“Ben Dugan Works for CVS. His Job Is Battling a $45 Billion Crime Spree.”) highlighted an increasing criminal problem that many retailers continue to battle that starts in their stores and moves to easy-to-hide-behind, online marketplace storefronts.

AMY DRUMM MRA Senior Vice President, Government Affairs Contact Amy at adrumm@retailers.com

Organized Retail Crime, or ORC for short, is a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise involving well-connected and sophisticated criminal boosters who hire those down on their luck looking for quick cash to steal lists of items from retail stores. Those doing the actual stealing are typically paid 5% to 10% of retail value to a street-level fence, who then sells the products to a larger-scale distributor. The distributors are reselling items on mostly unregulated, online marketplaces where they can quickly and anonymously move the stolen products instead of using flea markets, corner stores and pawn shops as seen in the past. ORC costs retailers an average of $719,548 per $1 billion in sales, resulting in $45 billion in total losses. That number keeps growing each year, but has recently ballooned, with one retailer estimating a 30% increase since the pandemic began. In Michigan, 78% of MRA members reported being a victim of ORC in 2020 and 39% reported that thefts increased in 2020. While retail losses can increase costs to cover increased asset protection needs and lost revenue, retailers are very concerned about protecting their employees from dangerous criminals who have gotten more desperate. They also want to keep consumers safe while shopping in their stores and protected from buying potentially unsafe, expired or tampered with products online. Criminal ORC operations often help fund other criminal activity including human trafficking and the drug trade so stopping ORC benefits the larger community and can help solve other, seemingly unconnected crimes. In New Mexico, the attorney general’s investigation into an ORC case led to the conviction of a human trafficking ring. Anonymity on online marketplaces allows criminals to hide their identity from both customers and law enforcement while setting up multiple accounts,

making it far more difficult to track illicit goods and shut down organized crime. This is exactly why states need to take steps to provide consumers and law enforcement the transparency and information necessary to catch criminals who are trying to deceive consumers into buying expired, unsafe, fraudulent, counterfeit and stolen items. Michigan should pass INFORM (integrity, notification and fairness in online retail marketplaces) legislation requiring online marketplaces to collect and annually verify six basic pieces of basic information that every legitimate seller should have. This information would only be requested from high-volume sellers (sellers with 200 or more transactions or more than $5,000 in annual sales) and must be verified before they are given access to list products for sale. Requesting the same information found on a business card be made available to consumers shouldn’t be considered a burden for sellers or marketplaces. Asking marketplaces to take some responsibility for the products sold on their platform is no different than the responsibility retailers take when placing products on their store shelves. In fact, this legislation, scheduled to be introduced this fall, should help legitimate businesses by proving and enhancing the reputation of these small sellers and entrepreneurs since scammers and criminal elements will be removed. This means legitimate businesses selling online will no longer be forced to compete with criminals selling knockoffs or stolen goods. Passing INFORM legislation should help restore consumer confidence in the safety and legitimacy of products purchased. It will prevent potentially higher retail prices or reduced store access as retailers cut hours and close locations in higher-crime areas. Reducing the amount of theft means retail employees and customers will be safer when shopping in person. It will also give law enforcement the information and tools they need to stop ORC and criminal activity connected to ORC. For more information visit buysafeamerica.org. WWW.RETAILERS.COM OCT / NOV 2021



THOMAS P. CLEMENT MRA Vice President, Operations and General Counsel Contact Thomas at tclement@retailers.com

“The best way to ensure a positive customer experience is to implement a written procedure designed to provide each customer with a similar experience.”

A practical approach to doing more with less A positive experience for your customers is always a top priority and a primary focus of day to day operations. With the difficulty employers are having finding qualified employees, ensuring a positive experience is tougher than ever. Studies show that negative interaction with staff is the most common customer complaint, placing ahead of issues directly affecting consumer finances such as billing and refunds. In order to maintain positive customer interactions, employers are having to get creative. Easier said than done when employee count is at an all-time low!

In some ways the solution is simple. If an employee refuses to follow direction, they can be terminated and employers would be justified in doing so. Most employees are at-will employees and can be fired at any time and for any reason, with or without cause. In the circumstance of an employee who refuses to follow direction, for cause dismissal may be warranted whether they are an at-will employee or not. In today’s employment market, terminating the employee and further depleting your workforce may not be the answer.

Retailers have always been creative, and post COVID-19 is no exception, with increased use of signage to make clear that staffing is low, self-check-out options and increased use of sales and giveaways to encourage customer patience. Equally as important is making sure that the customer has the best experience possible, despite short staffing. In order to do so, employers need to communicate clear expectations to employees while also being prepared to respond properly when employees fail to follow through.

Oftentimes, the best solution to a problem is the most practical one. In my past work with human resource departments, we would ask ourselves two questions. First, how do we quickly address the immediate problem, and then how do we correct the behavior. Unless the conduct was egregious or involved illegal conduct, termination wasn’t considered until practical approaches were exhausted.

A few days a week on the way home from work I frequent a store close to my home, usually to pick up a missing ingredient for dinner. My interactions at this store have always been positive and consistent. Every time I enter the store I’m greeted by an employee, usually the cashier. At least once during my visit I’m asked if I need any assistance. When I check out, I’m always asked if I have a rewards card and whether I found everything I was looking for. These occurrences are clearly the product of a well thought out store policy designed to ensure consistently positive customer experiences. Of course, this type of policy is not unique to my local store. I have similar experiences in many stores that I visit, but not all. The best way to ensure a positive customer experience is to implement a written procedure designed to provide each customer with a similar experience. A written procedure will also leave your employees with no doubt as to what is expected of them and make it easier to address the issue if they come up short. Once you have established your procedure, broadcast it. Post it in every employee-only space, practice it, and see that it’s being put into practice consistently. Even with a clear policy and thorough implementation, some employees will fail to follow through. As with all personnel matters, when this occurs the employer must address the issue in a way that both solves the problem and avoids any legal pitfalls.



Where an employee refuses to follow a written procedure, address the immediate problem by removing them from tasks that require following the procedure and re-assign them to another task. If there’s no other task, consider a short suspension. Then, talk to the employee in an effort to understand what the problem is. Perhaps the employee is extraordinarily shy with strangers and should never have been placed in a customer facing role to begin with. If the workplace has room for a non-customer facing employee, you may have an easy solution. What if the employee doesn’t understand the purpose of the procedure, or its importance. This may be an opportunity for a face-to-face explanation of why the procedure was put into place and a reminder that it should be followed whether they understand its purpose or not. Maybe the employee tells you that they think the procedure is dumb and they aren’t going to follow it. Now termination, or at a minimum, a corrective action plan, enters the picture. Regardless of the result of your discussion, document it and have the employee acknowledge it. If they refuse, simply write “employee refused to acknowledge” on the form. A well-documented file in the face of an unlawful termination lawsuit has exponentially more value to a lawyer than trying to piece it together based on memory. Practical troubleshooting is oftentimes the easiest and least time-consuming approach to a problem, usually yields the most positive outcome and is a good way to avoid any legal issues.

3 SHIPPING BEST PR AC TICES T H AT S A V E R E TA I L E R S M O N E Y It’s been a volatile year for businesses,

But what if you are a small business or

into account how much space your package

and now is the time for retailers to take

start-up that’s just working its way into the

takes up in your carrier’s delivery vehicle,

a hard look at operations and identify

market? It doesn’t seem fair that those who

instead of just rating your shipment based

ways to maximize profits. Start by

need a break on rates more than anyone

on the weight. The key is to optimize

implementing these three effective

simply don’t qualify for the best pricing.

the boxes and packages you use to ensure you’re not paying more than you have to.

strategies for optimizing your shipping while also lowering costs.

1. Take control of vendor orders If you’re leaving your inbound shipping up to your vendors, you are probably paying more than you need to. The benefit of managing your own inbound orders means you dictate the terms and are shipping

The good news is that your MRA membership gives you access to exclusive discounts.

Consolidating orders is another tactic

The MRA Shipping Program is a free benefit

retailers can take to lower shipping charges

that saves members 40% on FedEx Express

by shipping less frequently and reducing

and 30% on FedEx Ground. Saving money

the cost of packaging. In general, shipping

on both your inbound shipments from

two 10 lb. packages will cost you more

vendors and your ecommerce orders

than shipping one 20 lb. package.

to customers boosts your profitability.

through your own account. Some retailers simply allow their vendor to arrange everything because, let’s face it, shipping is complicated-especially for smaller businesses with a limited workforce. By working with a 3PL like PartnerShip, the MRA-endorsed shipping provider, you

Saving money on both your inbound shipments from vendors and your ecommerce orders to customers boosts your profitability. 3. Avoid extra costs

expand your transportation department.

It’s difficult to truly grasp how often

That means extra help reviewing invoices

businesses are paying more than they

for pricing opportunities, creating routing

really need to on small package shipping.

instructions, and managing your inbound

Understanding some key ways to keep

shipping in a way that costs you less.

costs low is an important first step that you can take to actually control what

2. Obtain discounts with carriers Most discounts that businesses receive directly from carriers are based solely on shipment volume.

you’re spending. One sure step you can take to avoid extra costs is to right-size

Final thoughts Running a successful retail business requires a lot of flexibility and multitasking, but MRA members have access to helpful resources through your membership that can make that job easier. PartnerShip and the MRA Shipping Program can help members reduce operating costs while meeting the transportation needs of your business.

your packaging. Thanks to dimensional (DIM) weight pricing, wasted space can be expensive. DIM weight pricing takes

Learn more about the MRA Shipping Program by visiting PartnerShip.com/41MRA



Couple shares how their store became Ace Hardware’s ‘Coolest’

Gemmen’s Ace Hardware storefront; Banners in the store proclaim Gemmen’s Ace Hardware, of Hudsonville, was named Ace’s coolest hardware store in the United States in 2021.



Andrew and Jennifer Gemmen believe their boots-on-the-ground approach to operating their store probably best illustrates their passion for both their customers and employees. Gemmen’s Home & Hardware has been around for 65 years, but it isn’t past its prime. In fact, the Hudsonville store was recognized this year with Ace Hardware’s 10th annual “Coolest Hardware Store” award. Selected from 5,400 stores around the globe, this coveted recognition is based on how well the store differentiates its offerings, services and culture to meet the needs of the community. “It really is the epitome of what an Ace store is,” said third-generation owner Andrew Gemmen, explaining that the award is about how Ace members put their own spin on the beloved brand to “create an environment that people want to shop and is, more importantly these days, where they want to work.” Connecting with the community is a pillar of their business model, whether it is the store’s annual Mother’s Day and Father’s Day events, special visits with Santa during the holidays or the annual “Ladies Night,” which has grown into a highly anticipated local event. 10


ONLINE SALES SPIKE The staff has continued to engage the community in fun and relevant ways, even during the pandemic. They created new, safe ways to connect with customers, including virtual visits with Santa and allowing children to virtually nominate parents to receive a special gift for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. “We just did different things like that, where we kind of just had the shift from in-person events to things that could be done virtually, but still make people feel vested and involved,” Jennifer said. In addition to fun events and store promotions, Gemmen’s gives back to the Hudsonville community in numerous ways, including supporting many local schools, charities and youth programs. The store also offers a series called Gemmen’s Workbench, free, informational sessions — online or in-person — for the community on topics related to home, crafting, lawn and garden, and hardware. As they have shifted to virtual events, their social media presence has grown. Online sales have spiked and continue to remain considerably higher than in 2019. Like many small merchants, finding a work-life balance isn’t easy since the business is a family affair. The couple’s sons, a college sophomore

and a high school senior, work at the store. The family makes a conscious effort to go on vacations and unplug from the business. “Gemmen’s is so encompassing to our lives, but we love it,” Jennifer said. CLOSED ON SUNDAY The store is also closed on Sunday, in keeping with the norms of their conservative community located outside of Grand Rapids. That practice helps them attract and retain a “higher-caliber” staff, Andrew believes. It’s also good on a personal level. “It’s a very special day for us as a family. We can plan some downtime and family time outside of the organization together,” he said. Andrew grew up working at the store through high school but stepped away while attending Central Michigan University, where he studied business. After graduation, he briefly worked at Target and Art Van Furniture to experience retail on a bigger scale.

sales floor and selling things and helping people find solutions to a problem. He gave himself that space to kind of grow outside of it and realize, ‘I actually do like this.’” A FAMILY TRADITION As much as they love the business, the couple aren’t pushing their sons to follow in their footsteps. Being an independent retailer is all-consuming as they compete against corporate giants with bigbudget marketing campaigns and online operations. “There has never been a moment that our children have ever felt pressured to be that fourth generation to continue that on,” Jennifer said. “Our oldest has made it very clear since he could talk that he wants to be at the store. He’ll be 20 this fall. Who knows where life will take him? But the boys do both know that there are no expectations.” Clockwise from top left: the Gemmen Family-Andrew and Jennifer Gemmen and sons Aiden (back right) and Jack (front right) in the BBQ and grilling area of the store; Jennifer Gemmen helps customer Rachel Korhorn (center) and her mother Karen Korhorn (right) with a mailbox; Andrew Gemmen (left) talks with 24-year employee and cashier Cheryl Wolf.

Gemmen’s began in 1955 when Andrew’s grandfather, Al Gemmen, bought a plumbing store. He renamed the shop and shifted into hardware. Over the decades, the store grew from one 4,000-square-foot store and one employee to 66,000 square feet and nearly 70 employees. His son, Larry, and his business partner, Mitch Nienhuis, were largely responsible for expanding the size and scope of the store. He knew the family’s store was where he belonged. “I’ve always loved this business,” he said. “I don’t have a very long attention span, and the hardware business is perfect for that because you’re always spinning a few dozen plates at the same time. I love the aspect of the ever-changing products.” Jennifer thinks the break Andrew took during college helped him realize what he loved about the family business. “He missed everything about it,” she said. “He missed being on the

The luxury of space allows for a wider and deeper inventory. One of the store’s hot products in the past year was the Solo Stove, a fire pit that makes little smoke or ash. The product was initially marketed directly to customers, but Jennifer spotted its potential and Andrew worked with the manufacturer to carry it at the store. He also brought the Solo Stove to the attention of Ace, and it’s now available in Ace warehouses. “These things have been on fire, pun intended,” Andrew said. “It’s unique products that help differentiate us because we have hammers, duct tape and paints — which you can go anywhere for — but it’s those little niches that keep us unique.” WWW.RETAILERS.COM OCT / NOV 2021


Bivouac celebrates 50 years and counting

In a city known for its world-class institutions, the Ann Arbor retailer is a destination that has served generations of customers. By SHANDRA MARTINEZ


In a Michigan city known for its world-class educational institutions, Ann Arbor retailer Ed Davidson is a bit of a retail institution that has served generations of customers. He started a half-century ago when he began selling U.S. Army surplus from his second-floor apartment off State Street. He had noticed that, in 1971, Vietnam War protesters and students wanted to look like military grunts. But there was nowhere to buy Army fatigues in Ann Arbor. “Most people have heard stories about merchants who lived above the store; I lived in the store,” said Davidson. “I converted my apartment into an Army surplus store and had a sign on the street. There was a little kitchenette and I had a mattress in the closet. I worked out of there till I had enough money to rent a storefront.” Within a year, Davidson was able to move his store, Bivouac, into the Maynard House and, a few years later, to a corner spot in Nickels Arcade, the first of what are now four adjoining storefronts. As Bivouac celebrates its 50th anniversary Oct. 4-9, with an annual sale, the store will donate 10% of sales on Oct. 9 to the Huron River Watershed Council. The council has been providing education, technical assistance and science programs to the Huron River Watershed community since 1965. Davidson says the secret of the clothing store’s longevity: an evolving product line that kept up with the times and connecting with customers, one conversation at a time. Interior signage leads to a second floor display area.

Sales associate Ben Beckman straightens Arc’teryx gear.

Over the decades, he transitioned from selling Army surplus tents and field jackets to outdoor gear from brands such as Patagonia, North Face, Canada Goose and Arc’teryx. “What the students are wearing, that’s what we carried, and the whole industry certainly followed suit. Now, we have a women’s boutique,” said Davidson. CONNECTING THROUGH ‘CHITCHAT’ The blue jean craze drove sales through many incarnations. “We sold used blue jeans for $5. It was very successful. Then we transition to new, but soon manufacturers started making jeans that looked worn and faded. Now, we sell some that are ripped for 20 times the price,” Davidson said. The store’s name is a military term meaning campsite when used as a noun, and to rest or assemble in such an area as a verb. “You wouldn’t believe the spelling we would get in the mail, or on checks. It was hysterical. It is such an odd name. It’s an American word of French origin; that’s why the vowels,” Davidson said. One of his secrets for connecting with customers is old-fashioned chitchat. He thinks it’s key to making the shopping experience fun. “I love talking to people,” said Davidson, sharing how he recently waited on a family only to learn the dad was a customer when he was a student at the University of Michigan. He and his wife had come in search of a coat for their son, now a student.



Clockwise from top: Ed Davidson (right) and son A.J. Davidson (left) pose in one of the rooms dedicated to Patagonia. Ed said they are a premier dealer; Customer nature experience photos lead to the basement; Bivouac script font on its storefront awning.

“He said, ‘You kept me warm. I’m going have you keep my son warm,’” said Davidson, adding the man, who now owns an auto parts manufacturing company in Dubai, gave him his card along with an invitation to visit him.

“I have customers that have been shopping in my store literally for decades. I don’t know their last name but I know their faces,” he said. There are also customers who don’t want to talk, he acknowledges. “You just have to know and sense that, but the easiest approach is, ‘What brings you in today?’ or ‘Is there something you’re looking for?’ That’s a way to start, always,” Davidson said. He also uses humor as a way to connect. It’s a little harder to pull off with a mask because people can’t see his smile. NO PLANS TO RETIRE Davidson joined the Michigan Retailers Association decades ago for a variety of reasons, but primarily because MRA lobbies the state on behalf of small businesses like his. “I think it’s important that retailers have representation in Lansing. My voice is heard as a result of MRA,” he said. At 72, Davidson has turned much of his day-to-day operations over to his son, A.J., who does all of the stuff he doesn’t like: hiring, scheduling and buying. A.J., in his mid-30s, took the lead four years ago. He was instru-

mental in putting the store online nearly a decade ago. The decision saved the business in the past 18 months, when the store was forced to close because of pandemic restrictions. Davidson ended up in Ann Arbor after graduating from the University of Iowa with a history degree because he took up some friends, who were Michigan students, on their offer to live with them. But they moved away to pursue graduate degrees and careers before he could join them. “I still kid them about luring me to Ann Arbor and leaving me. We’re still very close friends.” He works his store’s busiest days, Friday and Saturday, when he is more likely to see customers returning for the Michigan games. “I love working football Saturdays. There are people who come into town that I haven’t seen for years. After 50 years, there are so many great stories of the relationship with people you don’t really know,” Davidson said. “My son keeps saying, ‘Retire, give me the keys.’ ‘No,’ I say, ‘I’m going to be working the weekends until they bury me.’”



Are your customers happy?

The practice of secret shopping has been deployed by business owners for some time. Lately, businesses large and small are using secret shoppers in new ways in a pandemic. By JENNIFER ROOK The aftershocks of the pandemic are still being felt across the state. In some places, stores are busier than ever. In others, crickets. Businesses having to contend with labor shortages and supply chain issues, are doing everything they can to retain customers and hope the efforts they have made just to keep the lights on are also keeping their customers happy. But how do you know for sure? Mystery Shopping expert Lindsey Dahl of Shopper’s View, a Michigan-based, top mystery shopping firm that specializes in consumer research and competitive analysis, shares what secret shoppers across Michigan are noticing 18 months into a pandemic. 1. Customers are willing to chat. As challenging and limited as shopping has been, Dahl notes Dahl that consumers, overall, are happy to be in the company of other people. This can be seen in customers’ interactions with store employees. “As vaccinations increased and consumers felt more comfortable resuming their routines, they found their way into stores just for the human interaction,” said Dahl. Dahl says that is one of the surprising behaviors that her shoppers have seen is consumers wanting to chat with employees. “For the longest time, consumers avoided employees,” said Dahl. “Exhibiting behaviors like giving quick answers and shying away when asked if they needed assistance. The pandemic has resurrected the art of spontaneous conversations.” This type of behavior has rung true from stores to doctor’s offices. People are happier to interact. 2. Consumers are complaining about lack of supply. Businesses of all types from retail stores to restaurants to beauty salons have been feeling the effects of supply chain shortages – a trend that’s expected to continue into the first half of 2022. As much effort businesses have taken to minimize the appearance of shortages, shoppers are noticing and that has given rise to more complaints. “On a macrolevel, shoppers understand there’s a supply chain shortage just by watching the news,” said Dahl. “But it doesn’t hit home until they can’t find their favorite brand of spaghetti 14


sauce, much loved hair product, or even that brand of protein powder they usually get at the gym. Every category is impacted at the moment – and some shoppers are having a hard time accepting that.” Dahl says that employees continue to do a great job in quelling emotions, so far, by checking when next shipments are coming in, offering to reserve products, and offering to call other locations or even – local competitors. “Businesses feel if they can at least go the distance the effort will go a long way with customers – even if they can’t get the item they need at the moment,” said Dahl.

“As vaccinations increased and consumers felt more comfort- able resuming their routines, they found their way into stores just for the human interaction.” 3. Shoppers don’t exactly find online shopping as fulfilling. Yes, there’s no doubt e-commerce activity rose substantially over the past 18 months. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, national e-commerce sales have increased from 8.8 percent of total retail sales in 2017 to 10.7 percent in 2019, and then to 13.6 percent in 2020. (U.S. Census Bureau May 18, 2021) A recent Buy Nearby Study conducted by PSC, Inc. on behalf of MRA, found that Michigan’s retail sector has likely undergone a similar transformation with Michiganders directing $26.7 billion toward e-commerce spending with $3 billion going to local retailers. Yet, according to Dahl, even though the practice of e-commerce is here to stay, consumers still like the option to browse in person. “Without a doubt, there are a lot of benefits to shopping online from getting things quickly to getting access to new shopping experiences that consumers learn about online through channels like Instagram and Etsy,” said Dahl. “But browsing online has its limitations and based on the sheer volume of in-store traffic, especially weeks after mandates were lifted, people wanted to be able to try on items and see their purchases in person before buying them.”

Three actions to take

right now!


ccording to Lindsey Dahl, director of operations for Shopper’s View, shopping experience experts located in Ada, MI, there are three immediate steps employers can take right now to ensure a good customer experience, regardless of staffing shortages and limited supplies.

Although, store owners cautioned shoppers before touching items, due to the presence of wipes and hand sanitizers, consumers enthusiastically headed into dressing rooms, added Dahl. 4. Mystery shoppers are being hired to check in-store safety. One new development that’s happened in the wake of the pandemic is business owners hiring mystery shoppers to check safety measures, such as employees wearing masks. “Surprisingly, we’ve had instances where store employees are choosing not to wear a mask because they see customers not wearing them,” said Dahl. “The Delta variant is causing businesses to increase their environmental precautions, and some owners see mask wearing as not just a necessary safety precaution but as part of providing thoughtful customer service.”


Check in with your employees. Ask them how do you make them feel safe?


Be consistent with your policies. Confusion causes unnecessary service disruptions.


Don’t forget about your online experience! Monitor a live chat, customer service calls or email exchanges.

FEB/MAR 2021


The official publication of the Michigan Retailers Association


RESILIENCE BUILDS LEGACY Carson City Lumber Determined to Make it Through Century Mark Dublin Jerky & BBQ: A Lesson in Tenacity Tips to Keep Your Website in Working Order

5. Secret shoppers identify immediate training needs. Having a limited labor pool has impacted one area in particular – training. Many businesses hire mystery shoppers to see where training gaps exist. “With having to contend with an ongoing labor shortage, more business owners are using secret shoppers to find immediate training opportunities,” said Dahl. “In the past, we’ve had owners identify a possible issue then we go in and validate it. Nowadays, we are being asked to identify issues because business owners are busy trying to run both the front and back offices.”

In Her Own Words: Ann Arbor’s Mast Shoes Chris Copp and father Gary Copp pose in a lumber storage warehouse area at Carson City Lumber Co. in Carson City, MI.

Volume 46 No. 1

OCT/NOV 2020

AUG/SEP 2020

The official publication of the Michigan Retailers Association

The official publication of the Michigan Retailers Association



Painting spree

Gearing up

Murals: Are they right for your building?

Shoppers head outdoors

Election: MRA’s Friends of Retail

Artist Brian Whitfield is painting a mural for Meijer’s new urban market opening in mid-October in downtown Lansing.

Retail liability issues during COVID-19

Your pandemic compliance guide 2020 scholarship winners named

What downtowns are doing to help retail

Calming down angry customers Backcountry North’s Alan Schug poses with high-end kayaks. But the Traverse City store’s ceiling typically has several lower-priced options hanging from the ceiling. They’ve all sold.

Volume 45 No. 5

Volume 45 No. 4

DEC 2020/ JAN 2021

According to Dahl, mystery shoppers typically assess wait times and interactions between customers and employees. Now, because of supply chain shortages, mystery shoppers are listening for what items customers want most.

DEC 2019/ JAN 2020

The official publication of the Michigan Retailers Association

The official publication of the Michigan Retailers Association




An iconic clothier

Hand sanitizer helps distillery weather COVID

How Kositchek’s has stayed relevant for 154 years

Music stores find ways to keep us in tune

Enroll for your share of the VISA/MasterCard class action suit Know the legal pitfalls of putting merchandise on sale

Tips to embrace winter and maintain sales MRA’s Shop 3 Challenge

Your 2020 retail calendar

David Kositchek has mastered the art of retail as a fourth-generation clothier.

A customer enjoys a beer brewed by Michigrain, a Lansing distillery that changed course during the pandemic.

Volume 45 No. 6

Volume 44 No. 6

“This harks back to the increased complaints over limited quantities and out-of-stocks,” said Dahl. “Yes, business owners want our help in identifying products that are in high demand, but they also see it as a training opportunity because if they know that a favorite item isn’t available then they can counsel employees in the moment.” WWW.RETAILERS.COM OCT / NOV 2021


In their own words

Heather Zinn is the owner of The Cheese Lady location at 315 Fuller Avenue, in Grand Rapids, MI.

The Cheese Lady

Member since: 2012 Owner: Heather Zinn Location: 315 Fuller Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 Opened: 2012 Specialties: 200+ artisan cheeses, wines, and accompaniments Services: Bankcard, gift card program

By RACHEL SCHRAUBEN Photos STEVE JESSMORE Does your business have a unique story? Contact rschrauben@retailers.com.

When you walk into The Cheese Lady, owned and operated by Heather Zinn, in the Midtown neighborhood of Grand Rapids, you’ll feel welcome as soon as you walk through the door. With the eighth location opening soon, The Cheese Lady’s history started in Muskegon, when Kathleen Fagan Riegler began selling artisan cheeses from around the world at the Muskegon Farmers’ Market in 2004. Year-round demand justified a storefront and the original store now sits on Terrace Street in downtown Muskegon. A second location opened in 2011 by Natalie St. Louis Fuller just southwest of downtown Kalamazoo in Texas Corners and Zinn opened the third store in Grand Rapids in October of 2012. Zinn shares how the other Cheese Lady locations help her business grow and how her cheese mongers help you find the perfect cheese for any recipe, party or weekday splurge. The Cheese Ladys are independent, but also enjoy and thrive by sharing ideas and experiences. The boutique franchise model formulated by Kathleen, and her husband John, is based on quality customer experience and sharing a love and passion for good food. All of the stores offer a unique vibe, but they all share the same warmth and welcoming experience to



“...we go home with the customers in a way.” Heather Zinn

the customer. I look to the other owners for ideas and support, and I love to shop at the other Cheese Ladys’ stores for inspiration. The owners are all different, with their own favorite tastes. We’re able to bring in different products that make sense in our market, but the focus is obviously on cheese. That’s where we live. We have a core selection of cheeses... we started with and that we all maintain. Beyond those 75 or so cheeses, we all learn from each other on what’s selling better in other stores and we communicate regularly on our best-selling, new, and exciting products. I have some cheese that other locations don’t have and they too have some things I don’t have. We each have a few different vendors outside of the core to add to the diversity of our offerings. It’s a way we all stay interesting and relevant in our markets. We have customers share their recipes all the time. We tell them we’re always happy to be their guinea pigs. I’ve come across many new recipes thanks to our customers and their different and unique, and sometimes adventurous palates, and we love to share our recipes with them. My favorite pizza has a thin crust, crème fraiche base, taleggio, parmigiano, mushrooms and arugula. So good. Try it. The menu boards can be overwhelming… With over 200 cheeses, our job is to make sure that everyone feels comfortable. Don’t worry about all the fancy words, you can just tell us what you like and we’ll find something for you. It breaks down the intimidation factor that cheese can present. We listen. We find out what they plan to do with their cheese. Are they snacking on it, are they building a cheese tray, are they making a recipe? We want each customer to feel welcome. It’s our happy place too. It starts with the employees. We try really hard to keep our staff happy. It’s easier to keep a good staff member than train a new one. If they’re happy and they enjoy being there, it shows when they’re talking with the customer. We try to make sure our customers enjoy their visit, so when they leave they’re already thinking of coming back. We send them home with a product they’re going to enjoy with their friends. Cheese by nature is a social food and we go home with the customers in a way. We go with you to parties. We go with you to work. We go with you to events. You introduce us to your friends. You take us, The Cheese Lady, with you. Top to bottom: Cutting boards and other cheese gift items are available at The Cheese Lady: The store offers a large selection of cheeses and other items like wine and crackers; A look inside The Cheese Lady, Grand Rapids location; The menu board above the cheese counter breaks down the 200+ types of cheeses offered in-store; Rosemary goat cheese is weighed after slicing. WWW.RETAILERS.COM OCT / NOV 2021


Implement MFA and erase the target on your back Whether it is a phishing attack, non-payment / non-delivery scams, or extortion, it only takes one wrong mouse click or one unattended access point to grind your business to a halt. By BRETT GERRISH Every year, more small business owners discover the threat of cyberattacks. Cyberattacks are a threat that is real and growing. An annual report by the FBI pointed to nearly 800,000 unique complaints and $4.2 billion in reported losses in 2020 alone. COVID-19 has only made things worse as more businesses reimagined existing roles to accommodate remote work — adding new access points for cybercriminals and making it harder for businesses to effectively secure data like customer information, account details, and intellectual property. In order to reduce the risk of lost or stolen information, many retail vendors are mandating the use of advanced security protocols like multi factor authentication (MFA). If you haven’t implemented MFA yet, you may have to next week, next month, or next year. Here’s what you need to know… MFA: WHAT IS IT AND WHY DOES IT MATTER? MFA is any instance where two or more pieces of evidence must be provided to validate a person’s identity before they can access a program or resource (if exactly two different methods are used, it may be referred to as two-factor authentication (2FA)). The evidence is often first something you know, such as a user name and password, and then a secondary detail like a single use, five-digit code sent to you through something you alone can easily access — an email address or a text message or call to your phone. Because most criminals look for the easiest access point possible or cast a wide net of scams, MFA creates a wall between a potentially unattended or ill-attended access point and the valuable information at risk. COMMON CHALLENGES TO MFA IMPLEMENTATION Change doesn’t come without conflict and your business may see challenges pop up as it begins implementing multi factor authentication. Some common challenges — and effective strategies to combat them — include: • Not understanding the threat: Cybersecurity might as well be a second language for many people — you can’t touch it or see it and its effect isn’t always noticed. Nearly 90% of data breaches result from human error — negligence, lack of awareness, and poor access controls. It’s essential that you educate your team about what cybercrime is, how it oc18


curs, and why security protocols like MFA can limit its impact on your company. • Deciding your company’s best path to MFA: Every business is unique and your rules and regulations may make some MFA options ineffective. o Do you allow phones on the floor? o Are phones the property of the company or your employee’s personal phone? o Is email easily accessible to any staffer? o Are customer push notifications not an option? o Is the customer experience negatively affected? Consult an expert about how best to implement MFA in your business to reduce any performance issues or unexpected hiccups along the way. • Unhappiness about new & extended training procedures: Most people don’t like change and implementing MFA or any security protocol is not only change, but change that requires training. Again, by educating your team about the risks related to unsecured access points and the potential cost — both in dollars and jobs — you can reduce the groans of unhappiness and make the short-term challenges of training both bearable and even a chance for employee bonding. START ADDING MFA TO YOUR CYBER SECURITY PLAN Many of today’s top financial institutions, health care companies, law enforcement agencies, and large global corporations utilize MFA to protect their systems — President Joe Biden even signed an executive order in May 2021 mandating stronger cybersecurity standards across the federal government including multi factor authentication. The retail industry has millions of credit card and payment transactions occurring each day — without MFA security in place, your business and businesses like yours offer glaring weaknesses criminals can and will look to exploit. The Michigan Retailers Association encourages every member to look into MFA as a viable way to secure information, protect your company reputation, and strengthen relationships with vendors who view MFA implementation as evidence of a trustworthy business. READY TO LEARN MORE? Reach out to the vendors you work with about MFA implementation. If you have questions about MRA’s own payment gateways, contact Penny Sierakowski, Manager of Customer Service at 800.366.3699, ext. 366 or psierakowski@retailers.com.

Walking the path through your claims Step-by-step process to ensure a smooth process. By BRETT GERRISH While most every employer works to minimize the number of accidents, they still happen. Surprisingly, many employers do not have an in-house claims process in place, which causes disruptions to operations. Here’s a step-by-step process you and your team can follow to reduce the risks of workplace injuries and ensure speedy response and quick recoveries for all involved: 1. Develop a proper safety plan. You’ll never prevent every accident, but the more prepared you are, the fewer injuries will happen. Your best option is to position yourself to eliminate avoidable risk. This means you should: • Create a proper workplace safety plan • Start a company-wide safety team made up of key staff from across all levels and departments • Have signage where it needs to be • Schedule regular equipment training and safety checks • Make safety-mindedness part of the company culture. 2. Immediately utilize the claims 1-800 number for worst case scenarios. One of every business owner’s biggest fears is the big accident — life-changing injuries and events. In those instances, you may be so focused on immediate medical attention that reporting a workers’ comp. claim doesn’t even register. Make a plan in advance to properly file a claim: • Identify a staff member and a backup staff member whose job it is to file a claim and have it done within 24-48 hours. Call RIC’s Clinical Consultation service (866.764.7705) to report claims 24/7 and receive immediate care recommendations from an occupational nurse, directions to your local preferred medical provider and complete your first notice of injury (FNOI). • In the event of a death, employers must also notify the state within 8 hours by calling 800.858.0397. • If a work-related inpatient hospitalization, amputation or eye loss occurs, employers must notify the state within 24 hours by calling 844.464.6742. 3. Properly document all other incidents ASAP. The everyday slips, scrapes, and cuts can seem minor, but not reporting them can have large ramifications to your bottom line. Whether it is a cut that becomes infected, countering a fraudulent claim, or working to create a safer work environment (see point 4), it’s your responsibility to account for all issues related to workplace safety. Get into the habit of reporting anything out of the or-

dinary and potentially harmful to your team — it may rarely result in anything, but when it does, that documentation could prevent costly claims. 4. Treat every incident as a learning opportunity and modify your safety plan as appropriate. Whether it’s a life-altering accident or small minor events, take each as an opportunity to improve. Ask why something happened and if it could have been prevented. Reassess signage, employee oversight, and safety training. Bring new people in and open your door to staff concerns. The more you can fix from past experience, the fewer future incidents will pop up. RIC policyholders also have access to specialized cost-saving incentives. Through our Safe Workplace Credit Application program, your business can reduce its policy cost by up to 25% by implementing programs that will help limit on-site accidents — some you may already have in place.

We encourage all businesses to utilize the RIC online claim filing service and to go online to use resources from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Are you ready to reduce the risk of on-site accidents? Give Retailers Insurance Company a call at 800.366.3699 and their experts can provide you with valuable resources, assist you in navigating the complexities of the insurance claims process, and help you develop a plan to stop workplace injuries before they happen. WWW.RETAILERS.COM OCT / NOV 2021


Read this!

2021 Top 10 Books on Customer Experience Source: The New York Times

1 2 3 4 5

The Power of Moments

Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact By: Dan Heath and Chip Heath

What Customers Crave:

How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint By: Nicholas Webb

Never Lose a Customer Again

Turn Any Sale into Lifelong Loyalty in 100 Days By: Joey Coleman

Outside In

The Power of Putting Your Customers at the Center of Your Business By: Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning

Brand Ambassadors Unite!

19 Proven Secrets to Reinvent the Customer Experience By: Jojo Weltsch and Michael W. Farmer

6 7 8 9 10

The Experience Maker

How to Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait to Share By: Dan Gingiss

The Business of Belonging How to Make Community Your Competitive Advantage By: David Spinks

Winning Digital Customers The Antidote to Irrelevance By: Howard Tiersky

Listen Up!

How to Tune in to Customers and Turn Down the Noise By: Karen Mangia

Delivering Fantastic Customer Experience How to Turn Customer Satisfaction into Customer Relationships By: Daniel Lafrenière

CREATE VIDEOS THAT DEMAND ATTENTION. Michigan video production for brands that want more from their content.

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catch-all drawer The

MRS WELCOMES NEW BOARD MEMBER Rachel Hurst wwas elected at the August Board meeting. Hurst, Corporate Affairs Manager for Kroger Co. of Michigan, oversees charitable giving, governmental affairs, and media relations for all 119 Kroger Co. of Michigan locations. Hurst has been with Kroger Co. of Michigan for 12 years. Prior to her current role, Hurst she held different positions within the company, such as clerk, assistant manager, store manager, and public affairs specialist. “NO SURPRISES ACT” PROVIDES PROTECTION AGAINST SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLING On December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA), which included the “No Surprises Act,” was signed into law nationally. The No Surprises Act provides Federal protections against surprise billing and limits out-of-network cost sharing under many of the circumstances in which surprise bills arise most frequently. Provisions for the Federal surprise billing legislation are effective January 1, 2022.

Tidbits to make business easier

board,” you’re eligible to enter this contest. Congratulations to our September winner: Happy House Gift Shop, Ann Arbor; Owner: Joan Frey; Designed by: Rachel Weyhing 2022 ECONOMIC AND WORKFORCE SUMMIT The 2022 Economic and Workforce Summit, presented by the Michigan Chamber and Michigan Bankers Association, on December 14, 2021, features a look at the trends, data and leading indicators related to our regional, state and national economies and a discussion of the ongoing talent crisis and how to future-proof Michigan’s workforce in transformational times.

A surprise medical bill is an unexpected bill from a health care provider or facility. A “surprise” medical bill can occur when a member receives medical services from a provider or facility that is not in their insurance carrier’s network (i.e. “nonparticipating” provider or facility). Under the No Surprises Act, the provider or facility have certain required notices and consent forms that must be given to, and signed by, the participant (patient or patient representative) that explain that the provider or facility isn’t in their health plan’s network and that getting care from them could cost them more. As a result of the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (CAA), new Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network will issue new ID cards at groups renewal in 2022. The new ID cards will list the office visit co-pay, deductibles, and RX co-pays. SANDWICH BOARD CONTEST: ENTER AND WIN $75 Enter MRA’s monthly sandwich board contest. Take a picture of your most clever sandwich board display and send it to Jennifer Rook at jrook@retailers.com with your name, business’ name, and the individual who created the board. One winner will be chosen randomly each month. There will be no repeat winners. The contest is open to all MRA members, regardless of type of business. If you use a chalkboard, referred to as a “sandwich WWW.RETAILERS.COM OCT / NOV 2021


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Retail’s Test of Time This little gem ran in the October 1969 issue of Michigan Retailer. It was originally published in 1954. Although a lot has changed since 1969, we felt the principle of the message still applies today.



603 South Washington Avenue Lansing, MI 48933 Phone: 517.372.5656 Toll-free: 800.366.3699